Woman in LA police struggle had drugs in system

AP News
Posted: Jan 14, 2013 8:32 PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A woman who died in a Los Angeles police patrol car after a violent arrest by officers had cocaine in her system when she went into cardiac arrest last summer, according to a coroner's report released Monday.

The report, however, said it was unclear exactly why 35-year-old Alesia Thomas died because it was difficult to know how the struggle was related.

The report showed multiple abrasions on elbows and knees but no major external trauma on her body or internal injuries. Police officials have said an officer kicked her in the genitals.

"Autopsy findings and police car video did not reveal evidence of fatal trauma or asphyxia," the report reads. "Effects of cocaine intoxication appear to be a major factor in the death."

Thomas, who weighed 228 pounds, died July 22 after leaving her 3-year-old and 12-year-old children at a police station about 2 a.m. Police said she dropped off the children because she was a drug addict who could not care for them.

Officers tracked Thomas to arrest her on suspicion of child endangerment.

Police said at the time that she put up a violent struggle and resisted arrest by attempting to pull away from the officers.

An officer knocked Thomas to the ground by sweeping her legs out from under her. Two other officers handcuffed her and tried to lead her to a patrol car, according to a department report. Officers used a strap around her ankles to restrain her.

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Once Thomas was in the car, video shows her breathing shallowly until she drew her last breath.

The incident sparked an investigation involving at least five police officers that is ongoing, police Commander Andrew Smith said.

Four of the officers have been reassigned to administrative duties with no public contact; one officer was allowed to return to the field in another division, after officials determined she had minimal involvement, Smith said.

The report indicated Thomas had a history of bipolar disorder and attributed her behavior to cocaine intoxication.


Tami Abdollah can be reached at tabdollah (at) ap.org or http://www.twitter.com/latams.